I've spent most of my life in schools. First as a student, then as a teacher. And much of what I've learned about Christian Science has come as a result of the trials and experiences that are a part of academic life.
What I have learned most clearly is that for a Christian Scientist, excellent academic performance need have little to do with human intellectuality.
This fact came as a rather unpleasant surprise when it first occurred to me. After all, I'd spent years thinking the intellect was all-important. Yet in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy clearly indicates a different direction for the achievement of genuine understanding: "Understanding is the line of demarcation between the real and unreal. Spiritual understanding unfolds Mind,—Life, Truth, and Love,—and demonstrates the divine sense, giving the spiritual proof of the universe in Christian Science.
"This understanding is not intellectual, is not the result of scholarly attainments; it is the reality of all things brought to light." Science and Health, p. 505.
Initially that first sentence seemed obvious to me. "Understanding is always what divides fact from fiction, truth from error," I thought. But what was capital M Mind, and how does spiritual understanding unfold "Mind,—Life, Truth, and Love"? And how, without "scholarly attainments," could the "reality of all things" be revealed? These questions were impenetrable dilemmas to me as I worked and struggled to excel academically.
Working answers to these questions suggested themselves as I progressed through my undergraduate and graduate years in college.
In my sophomore year I was enrolled in a demanding history course that required five separate papers to be written on the five major religions of the areas under analysis. Like most of the students, I had procrastinated, completing only one paper after six weeks of the course. I'll never forget the Friday when our instructor blandly announced that all papers were to be due on the following Monday. Four papers in one weekend! It seemed impossible.
It was at this moment that I poignantly realized the limitations of human intellectuality! My familiarity with scholarly attainments told me just how long such a project should take. Needless to say, it was longer than a weekend.
Even though it had been procrastination that had brought about this predicament, I realized that my need now was to relinquish a material sense of myself and my capabilities. Again, the words of the textbook contained an important lesson for me: "When we reach our limits of mental endurance, we conclude that intellectual labor has been carried sufficiently far; but when we realize that immortal Mind is ever active, and that spiritual energies can neither wear out nor can so-called material law trespass upon God-given powers and resources, we are able to rest in Truth, refreshed by the assurances of immortality, opposed to mortality." Ibid., p. 387.
There had to be a bettter way of going about my schoolwork. Christ Jesus said, "With God all things are possible." Matt. 19:26. This clearly challenged my previous conception of intelligence.
First, I had to see my motives clearly.
One of the claims of academic life is that good grades become a sort of god to scholars. The temptation is to collect them like intellectual merit badges, and sometimes do almost anything to get them.
On this basis, my situation seemed a real threat. If the quality of the papers I would submit had to be lower than my usual work, my grade would suffer. But this, I reasoned, was surely false thinking. First, I was more interested in learning the material than I was in achieving any grade. Second, if, through prayer, spiritual understanding was unfolding the capacities of real Mind, the result could be nothing less than excellent. Resting in Truth would never penalize the person who was taking such a stand.
Next, I had to face self-condemnation. Part of me persistently carped, "This is what you get for your procrastination."
This was tougher. I knew that I had to be honest and not simply try to use God as an escape valve to avoid confronting my own lack of initiative. But, I reasoned, what was called for here? Wasn't the assignment supposed to demonstrate knowledge of certain material? Why couldn't I get to work now and learn that material?
Suddenly I saw the kind of advance that capital M Mind was over a mortal intellect. I realized that God, as omniactive Mind, was knowing Himself as the intelligent creator of the universe and that man reflected the knowledge of that intelligent Mind. If "with God all things are possible," then I, as His perfect image and likeness, was reflective of this infinitely capable omniscience.
I got to work.
What a weekend! I found myself understanding difficult concepts with precision and ease. The words flowed as I wrote about the material I was researching. Monday came and, with it, the four remaining papers, all of which ultimately received honor grades.
But I had received my real grade long before the papers were returned. I realized that I had been shown a vital distinction between real intelligence as a quality of God and the human concept of it, a distinction that could be demonstrated in academic life as anywhere else.
Simply put, the difference was between mind—the scholastic and mortally limited concept of it—and infinite Mind, the source of all inspiration and unfoldment. I began to realize that for the Christian Scientist, academic study, like any human endeavor, was another forum in which to cultivate trust in God. Interestingly, as I let an honest desire to better reflect the infinity of Mind surpass the human pride of intellectual achievement, spiritual understanding began to unfold. My thinking became stronger, more inspired.
It was a wonderful beginning.
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